Friday, June 10, 2005

Nick Hornby at Free Library

Whenever I read a book or hear someone's voice on the radio or phone, I can't help but create a picture in my head of what that person looks like. Usually, my guess is dead wrong….. but I will get to that part later.

When I read High Fidelity, I imagined the author, Nick Hornby to look like the person who played the protagonist in the movie-version of his book. It wasn’t his age or his baldness that surprised me as much as his accent….. who the fuck would have known?! Nick Hornby is British! I don’t remember him particularly using British expressions like, for example, Anthony Burgess…. I just assumed he was American. As American as Rob, the snobby, record store clerk.

Of all the writers I have seen speak at the Free Library, Hornby attracted the biggest crowd—oddly enough, they all kind of looked the same too. Maybe people are attracted to his amazing gift of dialogue…. wait, but a lot of writers are gifted in that…. Hmmmm, I think what makes so many YOUNG people attracted to Hornby’s style is his ability to skillfully use music and pop culture references in a way that is still meaningful.
Sure, sometimes its obtrusive, but he gets away with it because he is funny and honest….. we all know people like the characters in his books. He also was careful to point out that to him, it wasn’t “pop culture, its just culture.”

He read pieces from A Long Way Down (which sounds like it’s going to be the funniest book about group suicide ever), but the best part was the Q & A.

What I liked about him is that he was so much more laid-back than other authors I have met…. Not that he isn’t serious about his work (he really really is) but the fact that he didn’t care that Fever Pitch, a book about football (soccer to Americans), got translated in “Hollywood language” to an American movie about baseball. Refreshingly, instead of getting upset that his book didn’t get portrayed on the big screen exactly, he said, “it’s not about the sport, it’s about a fan’s relationship to the team.” He seemed very grateful to have his books turned into movies at all.

The one annoying part of the Q & A was that it revealed that the audience contained a lot of About a Boy fans, which in my opinion is Nick Hornby’s most unoriginal work. Wasn’t the childish-man-realizes-kids-attract-women storyline overdone on sitcoms long before? Anyways, most of the evening was awesome.

Here were some highlights:

1) No such thing as writer’s block: Someone asked him about how he combated writer’s block and he said that he didn’t understand the concept. He also mentioned the importance of “having a commute to work” and separating a space just for writing, where you can be by yourself. He said he bought an apartment a short distance from his home just for that purpose (also because he has kids and he wanted his son to think that his dad had a job.)

2) Hornby gives shout out to teachers: Someone asked him what he would have done if he wasn’t a writer, to which he answered “I would still write, but to make a living I guess I would have to go back to teaching” (which he actually dreaded and admitted he wasn’t good at.)

3) I got to ask him a question!: One of the best things in the world is getting to meet someone that you really admire and having the chance to look them in the eye, and having them look at you in the eye too. Sometimes I prolong those gazes and pretend that I am stealing their soul…. well, sharing it. I asked, “Who is the first person you show your rough drafts to and why?” He said his partner, because she doesn’t look for style or grammar mistakes, she just tells him if it’s any good and if it’s worthy of getting published.

4) A Long Way Down contains Radiohead references! I’m gonna read it for that reason alone. Because the audience respected his taste in music so much, someone asked him to recommend a band and he said some British band called the Magic Numbers were really good and have been getting a lot of buzz in England.

5) The last guy had the BEST question. He said, “The hardest thing about reading your books is getting attached to these characters and finishing the book and getting the feeling that you will never see them again. Have you ever thought about resurrecting any of your characters in later books?” Hornby answered that he thought of doing that with the couple from High Fidelity. (Smile)

At the end of the reading I contemplated whether I should stand in line and allow myself to be sandwiched between dozens of sweaty hipsters just for an autographed copy. I thought about the autographed books I had collecting dust at home. I let it pass. Just because a book is autographed, does it make it more valuable? I don’t know, I guess it depends on how you feel about the book and how you feel about the author. But if a book sucks, having it autographed doesn’t make it any more valuable.

Going back to the beginning of this post…. Here is how I pictured some people in my head.

Marty Moss-Coane (from NPR)— imagined her to be a blonde
Star (from Power 99)—thought he was white
Fionna Apple—thought she would be black
Pierre Robert (from WMMR)—older with shorter hair maybe?

I could probably think of many more…. Just not at the moment. Feel free to share YOUR experiences.


At 9:20 PM, Blogger rockstarandtheniff said...

Didn't High Fidelity - the book - take place in London? How'd you miss that?

- Rockstar

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Space Cadet said...

Sometimes I just feel so lucky.... at the lecture, when Nick Hornby was taking questions, there were dozens of hands up and of course, not everyone would get an opportunity to ask their question. The woman with the microphone picked me over this other girl a few rows in front. That split-second decision on her part, made all the difference for me.

This weekend I was sitting on a couch at a party and this woman sits next to me and goes "Hey were you at the Nick Hornby lecture? I was the person who passed you the microphone."

What a small, strange world! Thanks Danielle :)

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